Now will soon be Then. Then can never become Now. We can’t save the past or solve the riddle of love. But to me, it’s worth trying.
This is not the usual Hollywood star memoir. Then Again is a poignant recollection of womanhood as exemplified by Diane’s mother, herself, and her adopted daughter, Dexter. Using volumes of diaries she found in her mother’s workroom and her own letters and diaries, Keaton weaves an interesting juxtaposition of her own experiences and the explorations of her mother in trying to find a place within a marriage which allows her to develop her own talents and interests against the norm in the sixties when women in a marriage generally focused on being wife and mother, peacemaker and nutritionist, tutor and chief-cook-and-bottle-washer.
The story begins with Diane’s earliest recollections of her parents, singly and as a couple, progresses through her own career beginnings, on through her successes and diversions into other areas (photography for one, like her mother), and finally into her father’s illness and death and her mother’s subsequent journey through Alzheimers. Some of the memories are unsettling, many are funny and touching, while some bring back memories to the reader of similar situations, movies enjoyed long ago, with some glimpses into that seemingly charmed world of stage and screen. Her mother’s journals begin after Diane has left home at the time when she begins to find herself with more time on her hands and the desire to develop as an independent person apart from the role of wife and mother.
Near the beginning of the memoir, Diane quotes from one of her mother’s notebooks:
I’m reading Tom Robbin’s book Even Cowgirls Get the Blues. The passage about marriage ties in with women’s struggle for accomplishment. I’m writing this down for future THINKING . . . She followed with a Robbins quote: “For most poor dumb brainwashed women marriage is the climactic experience. For men, marriage is a matter of efficient logistics: the male gets his food, bed, laundry, TV. . . . offspring and creature comforts all under one roof. . . .
But for a woman, marriage is surrender. Marriage is when a girl gives up the fight. . . . and from then on leaves the truly interesting and significant actions to her husband who has bargained to ‘take care’ of her. . . . Women live longer than men because they haven’t been living.”
In addition to being a thoroughly enjoyable read, Then Again is thought-provoking about a woman’s role, how she chooses to live her life, how women support each other, and how woman perceive themselves and are perceived, and how these ideas have changed or seem to have changed through the decades of the late 20th century and into the 21st. A light, fast read despite the philosophical bent, and an interesting exploration of mother-daughter relationships. Makes you want to go back and watch some old movies (or some not so old), too. Perhaps with your mother or your daughter. Includes some “family album” photos. * * * *
To read the opening paragraph and a teaser, go to this link!
Some great Keaton movies: